Boston College Athletics: The Fish Rots From The Head Down?

By now, I'm sure most of you have read Matt Burke's piece in today's Boston Metro on the rapid decline of Boston College Athletics. We've already touched on the rapid declines of both revenue sports at length, and have also dissected Steve Lively's letter to the Board of Trustees.

But Burke was able to dig up some more damning quotes on the current administration. Here's some dissent from within the athetics department.

"The last two years I was there it was very toxic, it's not a good place to work right now," a former athletic department staff member said. "You never knew which (Athletic Director) Gene (DeFilippo) you were going to get when you walked into his office. You never knew if he would be nice to you or bite your head off. There were lots of mood swings and he rules by fear. I didn't want to be in that environment."

There are only a handful of former athletic department staff members who have left over the past few years, so you can only guess who this is coming from. The recent football staff mass exodus is probably a good place to start.

Unfortunately, the complaints aren't confined to the hallways of the Athletics Department. Former players have also taken notice.

"I'm sure a lot of people will say why aren't more people speaking out? Well there are reasons for that," said Bill Stephanos, a 1981 BC graduate and draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings. "There are a lot of people that still would like for their kids to go to BC and I understand that. As for the former coaches, there are severance packages tied to requirements that they don't speak."

Probably most damning of all is Greg Barber's comments on the situation. Barber, you'll remember, is a former trustee who gave the program a $2.5 million dollar gift to endow the head football coach's position back in 1997. Emphasis added.

"I believe (the negative tone of the athletic department) goes back to the period of time when Tom O'Brien was head football coach and was about to leave. Today we have almost nothing to do with BC despite having three graduates in the family.

"Under (DeFilippo's) own admission, he spends 24/7 worrying about the football program. He's said that (current head football coach) Frank Spaziani is the best coach he's seen at BC in 15 years even though you have (hockey coach) Jerry York in place, and he just won his 900th game. There's been tremendous turnover under his watch and based on the results, I'm just not impressed with (DeFilippo's) management style. I'm not involved today and I'm disassociated with BC. It's a shame."

Nothing really new here, and only confirms what we've known for some time now -- that the Boston College Athletics Department suffers from a leadership failure at the top which is manifesting itself in the school's two most high-profile programs.

At least the media is starting to shine the spotlight on a highly dysfunctional collegiate athletics department. But we need more of this.

We can all bemoan the firing of Jeff Jagodzinski and Al Skinner, the hiring of an unqualified head football coach, granting said unqualified football coach a contract extension or not making a coaching move this past offseason. Or complain about the fact that the football and basketball programs have combined to win less than 1/3 of their games in 2011-12. Unfortunately, both issues are symptomatic of a larger issue with the athletics department. It all starts at the top.

To answer the question posed in Boston Metro, Boston College athletics can return to the "glory days" of 2006-07, but frankly, I have little to no faith that the school is going to get there under the current leadership. We all want to see Boston College succeed -- Ever to Excel -- and the more media scrutiny placed on the current administration, the better the chances that the school finally makes a change.

To his credit, DeFilippo has done a lot of good for both the school and the athletics department, including sheparding the school from the Big East to the ACC. But employees can grow complacent when they serve in the same capacity for long stretches of time. And recently, DeFilippo has done more harm than good to the Boston College athletics department. Boasting to the Globe and overstating your personal role in keeping UConn out of the ACC, trolling your own fan base with Twitter comments about Clemson football fans' punctuality and telling fans and alumni "it doesn't matter" what we think of Frank Spaziani's performance ... it has hardly been a good year for DeFilippo.

As I've said repeatedly, BC athletics, particularly football and men's basketball, can be great again. All it takes is an end to the incessant excuse-making and a change of leadership at the top; hiring an AD with a vision and a plan. At present, it just feels like the current administration has no plan and no vision. We should be reaching out to the Greg Barber's of the world and reconnecting, soliciting input and ideas on how to make the department great again. Not turning away influential alumni with deep pockets.

BC can be great again, but it's incumbent on fans, alumni and the media to keep the pressure on the school and the department.

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